How to pick an SLP Program

How to Pick a Grad School for Speech Language Pathology

If you’re considering going to graduate school for Speech Language Pathology, you know there are so many options! You’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed (or if you’re me, completely overwhelmed), at the thought of sorting through allll of those options!

Don’t worry. In this post, I’m going to walk you through how to pick a grad school for Speech Language Pathology and the exact process I used to pick which graduate programs to apply to. Also, you can see the info sheets I created to keep track of each school.
  1. Set your criteria
  2. Rank those criteria
  3. EdFind & Excel
  4. Narrowing It Down Through Research
  5. Rank the schools again

Set Your Criteria

To begin, you need to know what is important to you.
Maybe you’re looking for a program in your geographic area, maybe you want a program with a bilingual emphasis option.
Whatever it is, make a list of the most important criteria for you in an SLP program AND in a graduate school.
Here are some things to think about:
  • Geographic area
  • State Certification:
    • If you know you want to work in Minnesota, going to school there will help you obtain your license for that state.
  • School size:
    • Big, medium, or small? Personally, I went to a small school for undergrad so I’d like a larger one with more resources for my graduate degree.
  • Program size:
  • Research opportunities: 
    • If you’re considering getting a PhD, you’ll definitely want research experience during your masters program
  • Degree type:
    • Do you want to be a clinician? Then make sure you go to a school with a clinical degree; some schools offer “non-clinical masters” for people interested in research.
  • Emphasis area:
    • If you’re one of those lucky few who already know what you like, find a school that specializes in that. Some schools specialize in medical SLP or others have programs for Bilingual SLP’s (like me!)
    • As a side note, if you’re getting a clinical degree, the majority of the classes will be the same in order to meet ASHA requirements; that means there isn’t a whole lot of room for specialization. You’ll get more of that through mentoring with faculty and through your clinical placements
  • Traditional / Online / Hybrid:
    • If you can’t make it to a traditional classroom everyday because you’re working or you have kids, consider an online program or even a hybrid.
  • Full-Time / Part-time:

Rank those criteria

Once you’ve decided a few factors that are important to you, you need to decide which factors are most important to you. I recommend picking just one or two.

Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to find a program that has everything you want, but the chances are slim. It is important to keep an open mind.

Anecdote: When I was a senior in high school, I was 100% sure I was going to UMKC for college. No Doubts. One morning I was in Physics class (not particularly wanting to be there), and an announcement came on the PA system announcing there was a representative from Truman State University in the counseling office to visit with any interested seniors. I was much more interested in anything other physics, so I went to the presentation. Long-story made short: I fell in love with Truman State; I ending up going there and it completely changed my life.

 

Moral of the story? Keep an open mind…and don’t be afraid to skip physics class 😉
Personally, I used two big criteria to eliminate programs.
  • First, I wanted a program that offered training in bilingual and multicultural issues. So I automatically crossed off any schools that didn’t advertise a bilingual track.
  • Second, I needed a school that offers an extended program for out-of-field candidates.

EdFind & Excel

Once I knew what I was looking for, I went to ASHA’s Browse EdFind.
I like the “Browser” option better than the direct search. You can look by a number of different criteria.
BrowseEdFind
I clicked on “bilingual emphasis,” and then I copied and pasted that list into an excel document. Then, I did another search for program with an extended degree and also exported those to excel.
Import List Into Excel
I combined the two lists and used excel to sort the master list alphabetically. To do this, first click the column you’d like to sort by: probably by the name. Then click the A/Z button (sort button) in the bar.
Click the "Sort" button which is an A over a Z
You’ll get this warning. You want to “Expand the selection” and click “sort”Click "Expand the selection" and then "sort"
Now, any program that appears twice meets both of your criteria! I highlighted these in yellow, and when I was finished I deleted any schools that weren’t in yellow. To highlight, use the paint bucket tool. To delete, right click on the row number on the far left.
Highliht any schools that appear twice
That left me with my initial list. I think I had around 70 schools on it.

Narrowing It Down Through Research

Now that you’ve got a big list, you’ll want to narrow it down even further. I hope you’re not tired yet, because this is where the real work begins.

 

What you’ve got to do know is look up each individual school and get details. If your list is long, you’ll have to paint with a broad brush during this first round of research. I usually Google the name of the university and SLP and that should get you to the correct website.

 

Start by verifying the schools meet your criteria (in my case: Bilingual & 3-Year Masters)

 

Unfortunately, EdFind isn’t very up-to-date and many of the schools listed as having bilingual programs had no information about a bilingual program on their website. I immediately crossed those off my list. Also, when a university’s website was really hard to use, I crossed those off as well – technology is important to me. Cross of schools in places you would not want to live or that you just think would be a bad fit for you.

 

Once you’re down to maybe 10-20 schools, it’s time to start using a finer comb to narrow down the options.
For this, I created a worksheet for each school where I started collecting all of the important information about it. Here’s a link to the GoogleDoc version or you can download the Word version here.
Reach out and talk to People
As you’re investigating schools, there is only so much information that you can glean from websites. Besides that, websites can’t tell you much about the personality of the program. There are two major groups of people you should talk to during your research if you can:
  • Professors
  • Alumni
Professors are people and they have their own unique ways of working and being. You want to know if they’re people you’re going to feel comfortable working with for at least two years. First, try and go through the admissions office or department coordinator to get in touch with a professor. If that doesn’t work, see if their email address is listed on the faculty page. Remember, they’re busy professionals, so try to be clear and concise with your questions.

 

Side note: Just because professors are busy, doesn’t mean they get to be rude. When I was doing research, I had a few professors who flat out said things like “I don’t have time for this” or “This isn’t my job, you’ll need to talk to someone else.” So I crossed those schools off my list. Why would I want to work with someone who is unpleasant?
Alumni are pretty easy to get in touch with through Facebook & Twitter, and they have all the best information!. Try joining some SLP groups or following the #hastags (#slpeeps or #slp2b) on twitter and you’ll find people are pretty friendly, and willing to talk.

Rank The Schools

Once you’ve got all the information you think you need, you’ll want to start ranking schools. This is probably one of the toughest parts of the process.
I ranked about 9 schools in three tiers. I tried to include a mix of “dream schools” and “realistic options.” A word of caution here: SLP programs are very competitive and there’s really no such thing as a safety school.
Credits: Featured Image Uni Logos & Thinking Man from Freepik.com

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